FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Rashomon and the Binghamton Shooter

Success has many fathers and failure is an orphan.  But the latest grotesque mass shooting – during which a man killed thirteen people in Binghamton, New York – provoked a rash of conflicting attempts to assign a motive for the gunman’s mad acts.  Shortly after the violence became known, a Taliban sheikh in Islamabad, Pakistan claimed responsibility for the attack.  But since the gunman – Jiverly Wong – was a Vietnamese-American who lived with his parents outside Binghamton, the skeikh’s claim smacks of mere jihadist opportunism.

The conspiracy-minded may sense the heavy hand of Dick Cheney behind the Taliban cleric’s claim, since Cheney recently warned that President Obama’s policies were making the county less safe.  No doubt it is far-fetched to believe Cheney would employ a sheikh to mastermind a terrorist attack in order to vindicate Cheney’s dire predictions, not to mention the immoral, unconstitutional practices he embraced during the Bush era.  And that would allow Cheney to blame Obama.

Binghamton Police Chief Joseph Zikuski said Wong might have been depressed because other students in his English class at the immigration center he attacked had mocked his poor language skills.  Perhaps his teacher is culpable for failing to raise Wong’s fluency level.  The bullies among his classmates merit blame, but they might merely have been attempting to acculturate more rapidly.   The students must have noticed that ridiculing anyone slightly different from mainstream bland is as American as chop suey.

Some liberals said Wong probably suffered from the prejudice of American racists against new immigrants.  Some racists blamed immigrant culture itself (them pesky non-white fureigners) and the policies which allow disturbed or unstable individuals from other countries to compete with the disturbed and unstable native born.

Gun opponents blame the killing spree on the gun culture, of which Wong was an avid member.  Second Amendment absolutists accuse the Obama regime of threatening to take away their cherished weaponry, though no such policy has been declared.  Out of fear that new, more restrictive gun regulations might someday possibly be imposed under Obama, there has been a huge recent upsurge in applications for background checks to purchase more firearms.  The NRA used to flaunt the bumpersticker: “When Guns are Outlawed, Only Outlaws will have Guns.”  They could amend that to read “Since Guns are Legal, Only Paranoids Hoard Guns.”

Given the recent epidemic of mass murder, with so many unbalanced individuals turning weapons on relatives and strangers alike, it is hard to understand what a “background check” actually uncovers.  The week of the Binghamton shootings, a man murdered five members of his family.  In March an Alabama gunner killed eleven.  Last Christmas Eve in Los Angeles a lunatic dressed as Santa shot nine people and himself to death.  The April 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech, in which 33 people died, still holds the modern record.  We can only hope no one will try to break it.  This is not a category The Guinness Book wants to acknowledge.

Many officials and pundits attribute this latest rise in rampage killing to the economic downturn.  Wong had recently lost his job at Shop-Vac, which manufactures vacuum cleaners.  You could blame Wong’s boss for giving him the boot, but even more, his former co-workers, who showed no surprise at Wong’s wanton madness.  They had even joked among themselves about how he might someday show up at work with a weapon and shoot up the place.  Ha.  Do greedy bankers and hedge fund managers deserve the blame for Wong running amok?  Yes and no but no…

Not long ago Wong’s wife left with their children, apparently adding to his embitterment.  Perhaps the heartbreak of his wife’s departure pushed him over the edge.  Maybe she realized she had to get away before he murdered his family.  In a soon-to-be-posthumous letter to a local TV station, Wong himself blamed police harassment.  Or as Wong put it: “Because undercover cop gave me a lot of ass during eighteen years.”

The potential list of contributing culprits to this senseless horror is ample, even if tangential and contradictory.  In Rashomon, the classic Japanese story made into a film by Akira Kurosawa in the 1950s, each person involved in a crime conveys their very different versions of the incident.  Even the dead murder victim testifies through a medium at a courtroom séance to offer his take.  If we could contact Jiverly Wong through a spirit medium, he might be angry that others appear to share any responsibility for the act he alone committed.

Suicidal killing sprees are desperate outbursts against feelings of impotence that corner the killer.  A murderous rampage is a final, irrational attempt to be taken seriously.  Jiverly Wong wanted to make a statement in the worst possible way.  And so he did.  The pain he inflicted will linger long in many lives, but he himself will soon be forgotten.  Who can name the Virginia Tech gunman?

Victims of the American social experiment who go down shooting are doomed to justifiable obscurity.  They are but symptoms and statistics and by now, cliches.   But their enablers and accomplices – human and systemic – remain among us.  That is why we tend to look beyond the crazed shooters, to identify the people and problems that poisoned their brains.  So they don’t poison ours.

JAMES McENTEER is the author of Shooting the Truth: the Rise of American Political Documentaries (Praeger 2006). He lives in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

 

 

More articles by:

James McEnteer’s most recent book is Acting Like It Matters: John Malpede and the Los Angeles Poverty DepartmentHe lives in Quito, Ecuador.

Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
Victor Grossman
Red Flowers for Rosa and Karl
Cesar Chelala
President Donald Trump’s “Magical Realism”
Christopher Brauchli
An Education in Fraud
Paul Bentley
The Death Penalty for Canada’s Foreign Policy?
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Not to Love NATO
Louis Proyect
Breaking the Left’s Gay Taboo
Kani Xulam
A Saudi Teen and Freedom’s Shining Moment
Ralph Nader
Bar Barr or Regret this Dictatorial Attorney General
Jessicah Pierre
A Dream Deferred: MLK’s Dream of Economic Justice is Far From Reality
Edward J. Martin
Glossip v. Gross, the Eighth Amendment and the Torture Court of the United States
Chuck Collins
Shutdown Expands the Ranks of the “Underwater Nation”
Paul Edwards
War Whores
Peter Crowley
Outsourcing Still Affects Us: This and AI Worker Displacement Need Not be Inevitable
Alycee Lane
Trump’s Federal Government Shutdown and Unpaid Dishwashers
Martha Rosenberg
New Questions About Ritual Slaughter as Belgium Bans the Practice
Nicky Reid
Panarchy as Full Spectrum Intersectionality
Jill Richardson
Hollywood’s Fat Shaming is Getting Old
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Wide Sphere of Influence Within Folklore and Social Practices
Richard Klin
Dial Israel: Amos Oz, 1939-2018
David Rovics
Of Triggers and Bullets
David Yearsley
Bass on Top: the Genius of Paul Chambers
Elliot Sperber
Eddie Spaghetti’s Alphabet
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail